Three years of WordCamp Europe

Written by: Emanuel Blagonic

Published on: June 22, 2018

Most of us from the WordCamp Europe 2018 organising team were sitting in the organisers’ room. It was Saturday, June 16th, at around 5:30 PM and the conference we organised for the past ten months ended just a few minutes ago. During closing remarks, Jenny Beaumont, Milan Ivanović and Bernhard Kau announced Berlin as the 2019 WCEU host city.

The atmosphere in the room was overwhelmed with emotion — the event has just finished, and Jenny was talking about how she felt and wanted to thank all of us for our help.

Ten minutes later I was sitting in the Communications room. Next to me was my father, and a few steps away — in a lazy bag — was Luka. He was watching one of his favourite cartoons on his iPad. It was the first time the two of us visited a conference, and it was WordCamp Europe, no less.

For one last time, I looked around the room and closed the door, knowing that this is it — for a while — my last WordCamp Europe as part of the organising team.




My journey — as for a lot of other people in the organising team — started at the first WordCamp Europe in Leiden. I went to some design conferences before that (Fronteers or SmashingConf to name a few) but what I saw at WCEU was something I never experienced before.

I was part of the WordPress ecosystem for some time – my first WordPress website was built in 2005, and in 2008 I started developing more and more on top of it. Leiden was a logical choice, though it happened during some tough time for me — I was going through a rough divorce, Luka was born a year before, and a company I founded was going bankrupt. But Leiden was a light at the end of a dark tunnel. I learned about the vast WordPress community and finally find a place of belonging.

And that after party. I remember Marko Heijnen introducing Milan Ivanović to Lucijan and me, and a friendship was born — sort of a friendship that doesn’t have borders — since both Lucijan and me were part of the organising team this year in Milan’s home country of Serbia.




In 2015 I co-organised the first Croatian WordCamp. Petya Raykovska — the lead organiser of WCEU back then — came to give a talk. When the conference was over, I remember us sitting at one of the boats docked in the port. We were drinking coffee when I said – “Let me know if you need a hand, I’d like to help if WCEU needs any help with communications”.

And so it started. I helped with a few articles that year (and am especially proud of the Community series articles). Also, I have been given an opportunity to structure the first Social Media team. We tweeted, posted on Facebook and Snapchat. It was a blast.

That first year as part of WCEU organising team, I was petrified and stressed as I left my comfort zone and went to unknown. Don’t get me wrong; I got quite a lot of experience by then — from managing a team and working with international clients to organising (or helping to organise) smaller and bigger events. But then it all comes to our impostor syndrome, something Sonja Leix talked about during that very WordCamp Europe. And that’s ok. We all battle our battles and if you’re part of the WCEU team you never really feel alone. You are surrounded with people that like to share their knowledge, people that are there for you when you need it and are open to giving you advice and even more important – some guidance.


But next year was knocking on our doors. Paolo Belcastro, who was leading the WCEU organising team in Paris, asked me to lead the Communications team. A team that had only two people a year before (Petya and myself) has grown to five people. And suddenly, I was surrounded by other team leads — people that I often watched and tried to learn from, and admired their work ethics. We were discussing strategy, paving grounds for what WordCamp Europe has become in the past two years — one of the most important European technology events, a conference with a global reach, if you will.

The second year I was even more afraid. Being in a position where I should lead felt uncomfortable at times. For the first few weeks, I was asking myself a question “Are you doing everything you can?” and wondering “Am I good enough for the position?“. – because I felt like I’m not good enough and that I was there by accident.

But I found a way to cope with it. For starters, I was thinking a lot, examining everything that was happening inside my head. The biggest problem I faced was the fact that I wasn’t a native English speaker and was leading the Communications team.

But then it got me – if I wasn’t good enough, (a) I wouldn’t be asked to lead, and (b) If I did something wrong there will be some autocorrection within the team, someone who will tell me to improve and make things better.

You know, to me WordCamp Europe is like a big family where we all take care of each other.



What we leave behind

Every one of these three years I enjoyed the experience of being on the team, learning and improving the process. I appreciate the work I did, but even more, I appreciate the work others in my team did as this is not a “one man show”.

Today, when I look back, I see the immense work past organisers did to get us where we are now. I was blessed for the opportunity to be on the team for three consecutive years, to see WordCamp Europe transform to what happened in Belgrade – a conference people don’t believe is organised by a group of volunteers from all over Europe.

This is an experience that can change you in a very positive way. You are doing something for the community, working with extraordinary people. You have a sense of belonging. And in the end you see happy faces from the attendees, speakers, sponsors, volunteers… you know you did a good job.

I left the room and closed the door, but the 2019 team is looking for organisers, and you should join!